The evolution of modern-day football have seen managers choosing unconventional tactics to increase the team’s winning ratio, tactics which were not prevalent widely during the last decade in the game. Such a tactic is the emergence of a modern-day full-back who are given the license of venturing forward to the opposition box constantly and are one of the biggest creative focal points of the team.
Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool is a pioneer of this, using Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold as the two biggest creators in his team. Since Liverpool’s success at the domestic and European level, most managers have started using this tactic with the likes of Joao Cancelo, Luke Shaw, Theo Hernandez and Alphonso Davies to name a few among a bunch as the modern-day full-back.
Steven Gerrard with his Rangers squad have not stayed away from adapting to this change and since last season have been using James Tavernier in the same role as one of the biggest attacking and creative threats in his team. The right full-back is the captain of the team and was one of their biggest weapons in the unbeaten league run last season to become Scottish Premiership champions. Tavernier scored 12 goals and provided nine assists last season in the league being Rangers’ highest goal-scorer along with five Europa League goals.
Rangers have a bright start this season as well currently on top of the league and look very well set to defend their title again. The 29-year-old right-back has started another campaign in a lively manner at the Ibrox.
We discuss his stats down below to see how well he has fared this season.
The above heatmap shows that naturally being the right-back in the back four of Gerrard’s 4-3-3 system, he has spent most of his time on the right flank. With an extremely high work rate, he has covered a lot of ground, from one corner flag to the opposite on the right side of the pitch. The red and orange zones in the image show that Tavernier has spent the majority of his time on the right midfield near the centre while defending due to Rangers’ high defensive line and around the penalty area on the right-wing in the attack. He likes to stay a bit deep in the opposition half to cross into the box while drifting inside the box at times himself to take shots.
Tavernier’s pass map clearly shows his intent as an attacking-minded full-back with most of his passes played in forward progression than lateral and back passes. He has played the maximum number of passes in the attacking third on the right-wing trying to link up with the front three. Being the natural set-piece taker he is assigned to take free-kicks and corner-kicks and has already assisted Conor Goldson once from set-pieces in the match against Ross County. Tavernier has played a total of 329 passes with an accuracy of 78% averaging 55 passes and 91 touches per 90. He has attempted crosses from both flanks with xT as high as 0.3620 on occasions.
The 29-year-old attempts a total of 6.54 crosses per 90 providing the second most crosses in the league with 42.
One of the biggest features of Rangers gameplay is to switch the direction of play from a crowded left flank to an open right flank where Tavernier makes the runs into the box. This season they have been unable to use this a little less as the English full-back has managed to take only three shots inside the box. However, it has not affected his attacking threat by any means as he has attempted more shots from distance scoring one goal yet. Though being unable to get into better positions has resulted in a lower xG and he has quite failed to keep the majority of his shots on target.
But his creativity still remains at the optimum level as he is still one of the most creative players in the league. He has the second most xA in the league with 2.04 while already providing three assists in the league, the most in their team ranks and also in the league. Even after a drop in his goal-scoring spree, the ability to find teammates in the opposition area remains top-notch.
Though most of his successful duels have been in his own half, he is won a few duels higher up the pitch and even after not being a very tall player has used his height considerably well to win aerial duels in the opposite penalty area.
James Tavernier has been a consistent performer for the Glasgow side. He hasn’t been able to match his goal scoring output from last season quite yet but there’s no lie in the fact that he still remains the biggest creative threat for Rangers while going forward due to his natural ability to play dangerous cross-field balls into the box. Regardless to say, he has been one of the best modern-day full-backs in the past couple of seasons since the transition.